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Spiralling out-of-pocket health costs biggest worry for seniors

Consumer peak body National Seniors Australia (NSA) is calling for reforms to put a brake on rising health care costs and help older Australians maintain their private health insurance.

Private health fund premiums will increase by 3.25 percent from 1 April this year. (Source: Shutterstock)
Private health fund premiums will increase by 3.25 percent from 1 April this year. (Source: Shutterstock)

NSA Chief Advocate Ian Henschke says health costs had increased by 56.7 percent in the past 10 years, whereas overall inflation had increased 23.5 percent.

Unless the underlying cause of these cost increases was addressed, consumers would continue to face rising health insurance premiums, which had skyrocketed 66 percent in the same period, he says.

Private health fund premiums are set to rise 3.25 percent from 1 April this year.

According to a survey of 6000 National Seniors members, seniors want reduced out-of-pocket specialists’ fees, cheaper private health insurance premiums, increased funding for public hospitals, and more services covered by Medicare.

“Gap costs are a major contributor to rising out-of-pocket expenses,” Mr Henschke says.

“People on low and fixed incomes are particularly hard hit and are forced to put off medical treatment or cut their private health cover.”

Mr Henschke says out-of-pocket costs continued to grow as doctors’ fees rose faster than the Medicare rebate, adding that insurance policies can be confusing to compare and fees for in-hospital care further increase out-of-pocket costs.

“Patients’ bills often include costs for multiple doctors, including surgeons, anaesthetists, pathologists and radiologists,” Mr Henschke says.

“The total cost of in-hospital treatments may not become clear until months after a hospital stay and may run to thousands of dollars. This causes unbearable stress for older people, especially those on low and fixed incomes.

“We’re urging all older Australians to join our campaign to cut health costs and tell doctors, insurers and the government what you want.”

More information on National Senior Australia’s Out-of-pocket Health Costs campaign here.

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